27 Dec Finding Her Place and People in Israel
Finding Her Place and People in Israel
Since making Aliyah, Micaela from Costa Rica has made incredible friends and increased her Hebrew skills through The Jewish Agency’s Ulpan Etzion in Haifa and found Israel to be a place she feels she belongs.
Since the moment she decided to move to Israel from Costa Rica, Micaela started studying Hebrew with a private teacher twice a week. Still, she knew her Hebrew skills would still have a ways to go upon arriving in the Jewish state, so she decided to help ease her transition to life in Israel, she’d enroll in an Ulpan (Hebrew learning) program.
Micaela, 26, made Aliyah on May 11, 2022, a date she considers her “second birthday” now, and her experience at The Jewish Agency’s Ulpan Etzion in Haifa has been even better than she imagined.
“There are so many amazing things about the Ulpan, but my favorite one is getting to know so many people from all around the world,” Micaela stated. “When one of the students in my class has a birthday, we all sing to them the birthday song from our home country. It’s a beautiful tradition that allows us to get to know a little bit more about other cultures. It’s things like that that make the Ulpan experience so special.”
The Jewish Agency’s Ulpan Etzion program is Israel’s flagship intensive Hebrew learning program designed specifically for young immigrants who hold college degrees. The five-month-long experience provides a solid academic Hebrew foundation for those who wish to develop their language skills in Israel and also gives young adults the opportunity to meet other Jews from around the world who are newcomers to Israel as well.
At Ulpan, Micaela has class Sunday through Thursday, with plenty of free time in the afternoon for lunch, followed by homework and studies, then grocery shopping, socializing or running by the beach. She’s also been taking advantage of the many activities available in Haifa, from free traditional Israeli dance classes to concerts and museum visits.
“I have fallen in love with Haifa and definitely feel I made the right choice when picking an ulpan program,” Micaela said.
And while Micaela always felt Israel was a part of her before making Aliyah, her connection to the Jewish homeland has strengthened since becoming an olah chadashah (new immigrant). Likewise, her relationship with Judaism has grown.
“It still amazes me to be surrounded by people who know what Shabbat is or who have their own Pesach traditions,” reflected Micaela. “Growing up, I always had to explain to my friends what my traditions were like, which was fine because they were all so interested and respectful. However, it is really incredible to feel you are not the different one.”
After finishing Ulpan, Micaela, who has a degree in industrial engineering, plans to pursue a Master’s degree in Machine Learning and Data Science at Reichman University in Herzliya. In the meantime, she’s enjoying every challenging but rewarding minute of Ulpan.
“Ulpan Etzion has helped me improve my Hebrew level to a point where I feel comfortable having conversations in Hebrew. But beyond Hebrew, Ulpan Etzion created a place where I made friends that I know will be there for the rest of my life, friends that have the same struggles as I do and who are also figuring out their place in Israeli society,” shared Micaela. “I honestly believe Ulpan gives olim (immigrants) a smoother landing to Israel and the tools needed to feel confident in their new home.”